It’s in 1969. A little downhill headed actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), known for starring in cheap TV westerns, with his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) tries to find his place and hold on to his fading fame during the Hollywood golden era sunset.
I will not be the first one to say this, because of the filmmakers of “Once Upon a time in … Hollywood” also constantly mentions how special this work is in the film director Quentin Tarantino’s career – this is a tribute to the cinema world, through his unique lens. This is director Quentin Tarantino’s fantasy mix: a love letter to the cinema world of the time, filled with memories of the sunny childhood, a closing of the golden era of Hollywood, and everything that started Tarantine’s path into cinema world, which made him one of the world’s most talented and demanded masters of cinema.
Tarantino is in love with cinema and loves the cinema world from the child’s leg, and it can be felt very well in all of his movies. The director’s latest passage is no exception, and it is evident in almost every movie scene and camera movement – along with the authentic radio programs of the time that accompany film heroes on the way while driving their scenic era cars through the sunny Hollywood boulevards. The movie is filled with looks back on television programs, movie stars, celebrities of the time and the hottest filmmakers – in the background, recognizable music, all that combined is like a sweet cherry on top, that gives that special feel of classic Tarantinos masterpiece, where references to cinema history and movies are almost compulsory and normal.
There are a lot of fascinating reviews and dedicated words about the film, someone else cursing the film and calling it one of the director’s weakest works, calling the unfathomable story and the nonexistent plot. Reading and thinking about the film, I wonder in my thoughts, eventually ending up in the crossfire of hate and love… This film may be disliked and viewed as boring because with a peaceful heart it can be said that this is the weakest Tarantinos film because it is not possible to feel a unifying point and a careful passage of the story. But on the other hand, it’s hard to push back movies if you love cinema. Because the specific flow of the film, the elegance, strangeness, visual appearance, and charm of the late ’60s, is why we love Tarantino cinema.
The film is not exactly breathtaking and the parallel-moving storylines further confuse your head without helping to understand where the film is going, and as you expect a tense, dynamic story, the film takes a turn another way. In the end, film turns out to be a collection of many well crafted, interesting moments and scenes. Tarantino’s approach to films, his thoughts, and knowledge of cinema will never make it seem boring, and you can still feel the amazement, excitement, and the warmth that his films give to the viewer. Original, witty, entertaining scenes are a core of the film, and Tarantino plays with them at heart. References to the history of cinema, honoring their heroes that are worthy of admiration, and I respect it very much. All of this is visual and audible in dialogue. It just requires skill and knowledge to read it out. This is one of those films that will be able to talk about for long, long, time because the discussions will be and will not stop, because it is impossible to read everything in a movie from the first time, even though it is rarely because someone has such an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema as Tarantino.
It was very interesting to watch Tarantino manipulate history, change the course of history (not for the first time in his films), by creating his vision of cinema history and movies, a fantasy mix, conjuring up film heroes about his superheroes of the time. And when it comes to “superheroes” — Quentin has two. The film’s warmth and pleasurable aura are certainly condoned by two modern super-stars, Leo and Brad. Without them, the film would not be able to give its pleasing aura and style that both movie stars did provide to the audience. The images of both are fictional, but the directorial inspiration for his images (the writer of the script, of course) has come from Hollywood’s golden-era actors and fans. As attractive and excellent as both major players are, the storylines of the two heroes are also quite simple, without real development (although Leo’s image is deeper), so I think that every hero is not being used to the fullest potential, so viewers could be able to sympathize with them, to catch up and identify with them. Here and there it works, but I think the biggest role was played by the charismatic and presence of actors, who are strong in the film, and the two actors carry out the film with lightness and craftsmanship. They play very well together, so it must be said that it is a little sad that they are not seen as much together given the spectacular length of the film.
The film also shows quite a lot of the actress, Margo Robbie, who was the wife of the director, Roman Polanski, and whose world is more familiar with the infamous Charlie Manson (Deimon Hermann), a criminal and cult leader. Although Robbie’s film has a very static image and a story, there is no contribution to the film’s footage, the closing part of the film gives answers to why the image of Sharon Teitz, along with Charles Manson’s accompanying ghost, is needed in the film.
You can see a lot of recognizable faces in the film, but on the other hand, these actors are in the film mostly just because Tarantine wants them in his film. That’s why the film shows Bruce Lee (Mike Moo), Steve McQueen (Demien Louis) – because Tarantine wants it and can. A couple of years ago, in an interview, Tarantino said he would be very keen to work with Al Pacino, especially at this point in Al’s career, which seems more interesting to him than the highest points of Al’s career. Al got a small but sympathetic role as producer Marvin Schwarz. Also in small roles are Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, and episodically visible Tarantino’s usual concierge, Michael Madsen, and this year’s soon-to-gone Luke Perry and others.
“Once … in Hollywood” is a very special work – a great film (operator: great Robert Richardson), a great scene-filled, colorful bouquet of actors, an excellent scenography, starting with film plots, decorations, costumes. The film has a great retro design, that throws into sunny Hollywood already from the first few minutes of the film. Apart from the spectacular closing of the film, as I mentioned earlier, the film lacks a real plot line to hold on to. The film features a series of scenes that create alarm and tension in viewers, putting a grip on chairs and anticipating flare-ups in the hope that finally, the film will move toward a certain point. For example, the great piece of the film, with “The Manson Family” and Cliff in Spartan Ranch, where the followers of “The Manson Family” and the cult leader lived. Thanks to these enjoyable scenes that make your heart jump in more fun rhythms, you can feel a touch of the Tarantinos master’s hand, because literally with a couple of frames, assembly, dialogue, right sounds you can feel what is happening behind the frame. And in those moments when it seems likely that the film will immediately climb to the next level and the screen will spatter with delight, the film is literally drifting in a different direction after a few seconds, forgetting what happened on the screen moments before, sending viewers in the cinema labyrinth and once again making us guess what exactly is happening on the screen and where it all goes.
The closing part of the film is brutal, spectacular and memorable, although I was not a fan of the way the film jumped to it with a rather remarkable amount of time spent in the background by an annoying and redundant squaring voice explaining what had happened and what appeared on the screen. All right, it wasn’t as annoying this time as the voice of Tarantino’s own behind-the-scenes in the movie “The Hateful Eight,” but it also seemed lazy and demanding. And besides, the behind-the-scenes voice belonged to Kurt Russell, who plays an episodic role in the film. What the hell? Was his image related to anything that just happened in the closing part? Why does he tell viewers from the sidelines what’s going on in the film? Is he watching a movie with viewers? Sorry, it was very strange.
There are certainly a lot of people who visit movies blindly, on the one hand, it’s welcome, because in this era, different podcasts, movie trailers show very much and too much, tell you what will happen in the upcoming film, how it will end, etc. But on the other hand, “Once … in Hollywood” is a film worth diving deeper beforehand in order to better understand and enjoy the work.
Anyway, the work is interesting, bright, composed with passion and love for cinema, and clearly should be seen on the big screen. The big screen certainly gives the right mood and feel when watching this art film.
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” is already on display, you can watch it here!